Why was COP 26 so crucial to the fight against climate change?

The UK hosted the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow on 31 October – 12 November 2021. 

It is estimated that climate change may push an additional 132 million people into poverty by 2030. The time to act is now.  

Climate change poses the greatest threat to the most vulnerable and marginalised communities in the global South, particularly women and girls, and people living in poverty. By working and advocating for inclusive, just and gender-transformative climate policies and actions, GHFT aims to have the biggest impact and to strengthen the resilience and voices of those on the frontlines of the climate emergency.

What did GHFT do at COP 26?

We spoke up

  • GHFT colleagues and spokespeople from the UK, Malawi, Pakistan, Kenya, Egypt, Nigeria, Denmark and France attended the conference in Glasgow. We took part in conversations on a range of topics including: climate finance for the most vulnerable, gender-responsive climate action and adaptation, local women leaders. See the full schedule of COP26 events.
  • GHFT colleagues attended climate justice marches in London and Glasgow. Look at our ‘She the change’ artwork in Trafalgar Square.  

We joined forces

  • As part of the Crack the Crises coalition we sent an open letter, signed by Annie Lennox, Helen Pankhurst, Lemn Sissay and over 50 others, to COP26 President Elect Alok Sharma, demanding the government take urgent action to support women and girls as leaders and frontline responders.
  • We signed an open letter, alongside more than 300 civil society organisations, to Alok Sharma and other world leaders demanding that COP26 urgently commit to deliver finance on loss and damage.   

We passed the mic

We worked to raise up the voices of those living closest to the climate emergency and already tackling the worst of its impacts on our social channels throughout the duration of the conference.

  • We asked women all over the world what they wanted to say at COP26 if they could be there and this is what they said. View the video on Twitter! 
  • We shared a Follow of the Day every day of COP to shine a light on female activists demanding action in their countries. Check out all the brilliant climate champions on Instagram! 

What action did GHFT demand from world leaders?

Finance for climate justice

What did we want? 

​At the very least, wealthy countries have to deliver on their decade-old pledge of $100 billion annually, with 50% going to adaptation.

What happened?

In the week before COP a delivery plan was presented conceding that the $100 billion goal would not be achieved until 2023. GHFT experts decried it as “shameful that rich countries are only now – one week before COP26 – trying to explain how they intend to try to make good on a commitment they have known about for 12 years.”

During COP26 countries acknowledged the failure to meet the target and the “urgent” need to deliver on these funds. There was also a commitment to double finance for adaptation to climate change by 2025. However, there is still a lot of work to be done in 2022 to ensure delivery of these new funds, as well as a roadmap for how the finance will reach those most impacted by climate change. 

Stay within a global temperature increase of 1.5°C

What did we want?

Shift to net zero emissions as soon as possible in line with the 1.5°C limit of the Paris Agreement. 

What happened?

There was some incremental progress at COP26. The need to reduce emissions by 45% by 2030 was acknowledged, as was the size of the existing emissions gap. For the first time in 30 years, fossil fuels were mentioned in the agreement, with the need to “phase down” coal. 32 countries also pledged to halt fossil fuel financing and a carbon trading agreement was made. Most importantly, countries agreed to revisit their 2030 emission reduction targets by the end of 2022, to see if they are in line with the 1.5°C target. This means that the big countries in particular need to go back and figure out ways to increase ambition. All in all, the COP26 package did respond to the IPCC code red warning and kept 1.5 alive, but barely, and delivery on these pledges is critical.  

Gender Justice  

What did we want?

Increased efforts to integrate gender equality across all climate measures and send funding to local women-led and women’s rights organisations working to tackle climate change.

What happened? 

During COP, GHFT experts tentatively welcomed Gender Day commitments from the UK, Canada and the US. There was recognition that gender should be better integrated into countries’ climate action plans, and the need for a more explicit focus on finance that is gender responsive. In 2022, GHFT will continue to call for finance for women-led and women’s rights organisations and implementation of the gender action plan.

Gender-transformative adaptation 

What did we want?

Invest technical and financial support to accelerate gender-transformative climate action and decision-making. These are projects that support people in adapting to climate change that also work towards empowering women and girls and upholding their rights. This should include promoting women’s and girls’ leadership in climate action.

What happened?

At COP26 a new 2-year work programme for adaptation was adopted, and the Adaptation Fund raised a record $356m in new pledges.​ There was a commitment to double funding for adaptation by 2025, amounting to at least $40bn, and parties were urged to better integrate climate adaptation into local, national and regional planning. Positively, the Glasgow Climate Pact encourages “Parties to increase the full, meaningful and equal participation of women in climate action and to ensure gender-responsive implementation and means of implementation”, a clear call to better integrate gender across adaptation action.

The finance committed however is a drop in the ocean compared to what is needed by the millions of people who are having to adapt their livelihoods and communities because of the devastating impacts of climate change. In 2022 GHFT will continue to advocate for wealthy countries to live up to their responsibilities and further support those who did little to create this climate crisis but are now living with the consequences.

Tackle climate loss and damage

What did we want?

To advance progress to provide finance to address the irreversible devastation many countries and communities have already experienced due to the climate crisis, or will do in the future.

What happened?

Developed countries only agreed to a 2-year dialogue, or workshop, on loss and damage. Although there were commitments from Scotland and from some other philanthropic corners, there were no concrete commitments to create a financial mechanism on loss and damage. This was a disappointing outcome, and wealthy countries were accused of making statements of solidarity in public but acting differently in negotiations. Pushing wealthy nations to take responsibility for the damage done will be key for GHFT in 2022.

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